Sidewalk Stories: Kindle Version

I’m excited to announce that there is a new Kindle version of my full-length poetry book Sidewalk Stories. The book is a collection of free-verse narrative and philosophical poems and was published by Kelsay Books in 2017.

Cover art by Donatas1205 (via Shutterstock).

Some of the story poems are autobiographical; other works are fictional, including some that imagine the inner life of animals. The collection explores the universal themes of gratitude, romance, self-esteem, family, illness, advancing age, and death.

Here are the blurbs from the back of the book:

What poet and songwriter Rob McKuen created during the turbulent late ’60s and ’70s in San Francisco with his book Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows, Francis DiClemente has accomplished in Sidewalk Stories. With the backdrop of the gritty streets of Syracuse, New York, DiClemente manages to create a poetic canvas and find beauty in the midst of the harsh realities of life in upstate New York.

—Joanne Storkan, screenwriter and film producer (Honest Engine Films)

Sidewalk Stories is an inspired collection of meditations and personal vignettes, vividly capturing the range of human experience. Francis DiClemente channels his inner Charles Bukowski to present an unflinching look at youth and encroaching middle age. Amidst unprepossessing urban decay, we meet a cast of characters whose stories of regret and missed opportunity are probably as much DiClemente’s as they are their own. That some of them manage to remain sanguine about the future—and their mortality—is part of DiClemente’s charm as a storyteller. These poems leap off the page and onto the sidewalks of our imagination.

—Rob Enslin, author/journalist

In Sidewalk Stories, poet Francis DiClemente invites us to be his companion on an intimate journey. We walk with him on gritty sidewalks, observe through his eyes the plight and the beauty of the beings with whom we share the world. An old woman, a blind man, a little girl twirling, even a rabbit and an overturned turtle are viewed with deep compassion. Here is a poet who doesn’t just look; he sees. And his vision is no less unflinching when he brings us with him into his own life.

But don’t worry. Though many of DiClemente’s poems are infused with a sense of loneliness, they also convey a stronger sense of courage and endurance. And watch for the irrepressible whimsy and humor as, for example, a cowboy lassos a star, and when the poet rants about the tyranny of poetry. With each poem in this collection, DiClemente will take you deep inside a thoughtful man, and then, deeper inside yourself.

—Kathleen Kramer, playwright and poet; author of the poetry collections Boiled Potato Blues and Planting Wild Grapes

And here are a few excerpts from the collection:

Stooped

An old woman hunched over,
looking down at the sidewalk,
adjusting her knit hat.
She limps forward,
shuffling along,
riddled with pain.
Her face reveals
the hurt she endures.
She receives no aid,
no intercession
from human or heaven.
I pass her on the sidewalk,
and I say a quick prayer
that her suffering wanes.
It may not do any good,
but I send the thought aloft
and hope someone is listening.
The woman crosses the street
and fades out of sight.
I then hear an inner voice say,
“You were there,
you could have helped her.”

Hard Shell

What goes through the mind of a turtle
When it’s sprawled on its back and can’t roll over?
Does it panic as its legs squirm in the air?
Does it stick out its tongue and try to scream for help?
Does it curse its maker as it writhes on the asphalt,
With the sun scorching its belly?
How long does it wait before giving up and accepting fate?

No. This turtle does not think.
It lacks the capacity to reason.
Instincts fire as it battles to survive:
“Get off your shell. Roll over. On your feet.”
It rocks from side to side as it labors to turn over.
It strains, twists, and kicks … but fails.

And no one will intervene—
There’s no Tom Sawyer kid with a hickory stick,
Skipping along and flipping the turtle over.
No semi truck rumbles down the road,
Stirring up a blast of air and setting the turtle upright.

It struggles alone, refusing to quit
As it attempts to conquer physics.
The turtle keeps working
Until the sun desiccates its flesh,
And it releases a final breath—
A low croak that goes unheard along the deserted road.
The turtle is gone and no one witnessed the fight.

Dinner in a Chinese Restaurant

February in Syracuse—
dinner at a Chinese restaurant
on a frigid Wednesday night.
Panda West on Marshall Street.
Steamed chicken with mixed vegetables
and a piping hot kettle of oolong tea.
Lights dimmed and nearby diners
conversing at low volume.
A Middle Eastern man discusses the
practice of anesthesiology
with a woman (a female colleague I presume),
who leans over the table toward the man,
eager to comprehend each word
emanating from his dark lips.

I scan the New York Times arts section
as I gobble my dinner,
then call to the waiter to box up the leftovers.
I pay the bill, leave the tip, and
depart the warmth of the restaurant,
returning to the dampness of Marshall Street.
I walk down South Crouse Avenue,
turn right on East Genesee Street,
and arrive at the door to my empty apartment.

I put the leftovers in the refrigerator,
and feel relieved that dinner is over.
I’m glad I don’t need to fix anything,
or eat another meal at my living room card table,
with a Netflix movie streaming on my laptop computer.

Tonight I was a person.
Tonight I ate dinner in a restaurant,
surrounded by human beings.
And even if I wasn’t part of their conversations,
at least I was there, out in the world,
regardless of being alone.

The Auction

If my poems were auctioned off,
what sum would they fetch?
What value would they hold
in the marketplace?
What dollar amount would anyone pay
for these words coalescing on paper,
these mad scribbles in verse form?
I can see it now:
Sotheby’s would start the bidding
and no one would make an offer.
The gavel would strike and the bidding close.
But before the auctioneer could move on
to the next item in the evening’s catalog,
I would raise my hand and ask
if I could pick up the unclaimed poems
and take them back to my room,
where they could stay free of charge.

Ode to Thomas Wolfe

A pebble, a brook, a passageway
to time flowing in reverse,
a mirrored labyrinth reflecting
memories of adolescence.
A path leading back
to the days of my youth,
from whence I came,
to where I am,
brimming with a hunger—
a gnawing restlessness
that never wanes.

Landscape

Beauty abounds.
Just look around
and you will see—
a quivering leaf,
a patch of grass,
billowing clouds,
and a slash of light
beneath the bridge.
It’s not a bad world, really—
we just need
to train our eyes
to gaze with wonder,
and marvel at the
transcendental pageantry.
It’s there before you.
But you must zoom out,
zoom out
and refocus the image.
There. Hold it.
Do you see it now?

Rise

To find peace
One must
Unravel the self,
Let it fall away,
Drop to the floor.
Unencumbered by
This anchor weight,
The man or woman
Who pursues
Spiritual freedom
Discovers the
Ability to soar.

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